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Grizzlies at Suns Preview: Rise above

The Grizzlies ride a 3-game winning streak into a huge matchup in Phoenix to face the Suns, losers of 2 straight. It will be a matchup of smashmouth, defense-first Grizzlies basketball against the Suns' high-flying offensive attack and playoff hunger.

Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports
2013/2014 NBA Season
48-32 (22-18 road)
Won 3
47-33 (26-14 home)
Lost 2
April 14th, 2014
US Airways Center, Phoenix, AZ
9:00 PM CDT
Fox SportsSouth/ 92.9 FM ESPN
Possible Starters
Mike Conley PG Eric Bledsoe
Courtney Lee SG Goran Dragic
Tayshaun Prince SF P.J. Tucker
Zach Randolph PF Channing Frye
Marc Gasol C Miles Plumlee
2013/14 Advanced Stats
92.3 (30th) Pace 98.2 (8th)
103.2 (17th) OEff 107.2 (8th)
102.1 (8th) DEff 103.6 (14th)
Injury Report

Suns - n/a

Grizzlies - Quincy Pondexter (out, foot)

Opposing team's blog: Bright Side of the Sun

Keys to the game

Will Goran Dragic be 100%? Dragic missed the Suns matchup vs. the Spurs with an ankle injury and returned to play through it vs. the Mavericks, but was just 6-18 from the field for 13 points and didn't look all the way back. Dragic has put up tremendous numbers this year as a sort of combo/2 guard (20.4 PPG, 5.9 APG, 51% FG, 42% 3PT, 21.52 PER) and is a big reason the Suns are still in contention despite losing Eric Bledsoe for a chunk of the season. Speaking of which...

Bledsoe vs. Conley Eric Bledsoe was a Grizzly-killer with the Clippers. In his lone matchup against the Grizzlies this year though, he was visibly frustrated and ended with just 9 points and 5 assists on 4-13 shooting. Mike Conley, on the other hand, has averaged 20 points and 9 assists on 7-15 shooting vs. the Suns this year. Bledsoe is playing terrific basketball this month though, averaging 23 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 2.3 steals, and 0.8 blocks while shooting 60% from the field and 47% from 3. That includes him scoring 59 points combined in the last 2 Suns losses. He's hot. If Conley can match or exceed Bledsoe tonight, the Grizzlies will have a strong chance of winning.

Stretch Bigs vs. Old School Thumpers The Suns don't really have a traditional big, plodding, bruiser of a big man on their roster. Instead, what they have are a stable of stretch bigs: Markieff Morris, Marcus Morris, Channing Frye, and Miles Plumlee. All but Plumlee are threats out to and including the 3. Plumlee, despite being a white guy from Indiana named Miles Plumlee who played at Duke, is an athletic high-flyer capable of putting up many highlight-reel plays. Plumlee has averaged nearly a double-double, and as we've seen in the past, stretch bigs can give our traditional bigs matchup problems. Good rotations and high effort will be needed to keep this from being a Phoenix advantage.

The math game

If the Grizzlies win tonight, the 7th seed - and possibly the 6 seed if Golden State somehow loses to Minnesota tonight and Denver on Wednesday - is up for grabs in Wednesday night's showdown with Dallas at a no-doubt-rocking FedEx Forum. If not, the Grizzlies will have to win against the Mavs and/or scoreboard watch to make it in at all. Tonight is a really big game.

Joe's neat-o fact-o-the-day

Phoenix is tied for 2nd in the league in 3 pointers made, 4th in attempts and 6th in percentage. The Suns have 6 players who have averaged more than 2 attempts per game and are shooting over 35%: Gerald Green, Channing Frye, Goran Dragic, Marcus Morris, Eric Bledsoe, and P.J. Tucker. Of those, the only one under 37% is Eric Bledsoe, and he's shooting 47% for the month of April. This is a dangerous team from deep.

The Bottom Line

This is a really, really big game. If the Grizzlies win this one, they continue to control their own destiny where the playoffs are concerned, solidly in and still in the fight for that 7th or potentially even 6th spot. Lose, and it's scoreboard-watching and hoping. The Grizzlies will need to play like they did for most of the second half against the Lakers - crowding 3 point shooters, fighting through picks, executing on offense, winning the possession game - and hey, another 24 & 8 night from Mike Conley wouldn't hurt things either. Two desperate teams will pit their will and their skill against each other, and only one can emerge with the upper hand.

Strength and honor, Grizzlies. Strength and honor.